Airtel and financial services provider Maisha Microfinance Bank launched a mobile money-based savings and loan service to the Kenyan market, pitting it directly against Safaricom’s M-Shwari and KCB accounts.
M-Fanisi is available to existing Airtel Money customers, who can apply directly through the mobile money service to receive a loan for up to 30 days. It will also offer the facility to open a regular savings account.
During a 45 day trial period for the service, Maisha said 50,000 new accounts were opened with 20,000 customers accessing loan facilities.
“We are opening doors to those Kenyans who are unbanked to enable them to start their own businesses and/or expand them,” Maisha CEO Kamal Shah said in a statement: “Today we are witnessing a major milestone where Maisha is the first microfinance bank in Kenya to successfully rollout a mobile based lending and savings product.”
Speaking at the launch event, Airtel Kenya managing director Prasanta das Sarma added: “This partnership is geared towards empowering Kenyans by enhancing financial inclusion.”
This is not the first time Airtel offered direct loans in the country. It previously launched similar ventures, including one with finance company Faulu Kenya in 2012.
The launch of a loan platform integrated into Airtel Money means the company will compete directly with dominant mobile money player Safaricom. The market leader offers loans directly through m-Pesa using the KCB service. Savings accounts are available though its M-Shwari brand.
Latest statistics from Kenya’s Communication Authority on the country’s burgeoning mobile money market – covering the three months to the end of March 2017 – show Airtel had 1.7 million subscribers, competing for second place with Equitel and Mobikash which had similar subscriber numbers.
All three competitors lagged well behind Safaricom, which boasted 22 million subscriptions – a market share of 80 per cent.